by John Watts
Merrily a jester sung, tapping his feet to a jolly tune, garbed in gaudy green and vibrant red, a flute in hand, and smiling like a delighted child, trying to amuse a bored king and his queen. And when the music died away, the jester still smirked and smiled.
‘Merry fool, tell me, why do you smile so?’ said the king.
‘Because, your grace, I am so happy.’
‘And, why, pray tell are you so happy?’
‘Because, your grace, I have such a handsome face.’
‘Ha, and how did you come to own such a face?’
‘Your grace, it was God’s gift in my case.’
‘Well now employ your other gifts and tell me a story.’
‘I can tell you a tale, or, if you please I may shake this wand and some wonder it might bring.’
‘Tell me a tale fool.’
‘Very well my sire, have you heard the tale of a duchess who fell in love with a butcher’s son and deigned him her lover to be?’
‘How ridiculous, a duchess would never lower herself so,’ said the king.
‘Oh, but it is true, have you not heard of the Duchess Anisha?’
‘Well she loved a butcher’s son, a fellow whose face, though not as handsome as mine, still bore God’s handiwork sublime, and he endeared himself greatly to her with touching words, poetry infused with passion, thoughtful gifts, and even his wonderful sense of humour.’
‘Did he now?’ said the king.
‘He did, keeping it all well secretive; but, fearing God and owning modesty, she always refused his embrace.’
‘So at least she had some sense then,’ said the king.
‘Refused until, when they were on a secret jaunt together, in some enchanting grove, he wooed her with a spell of words so warm and romantic, so congenial was she to he, that, upon a kiss, she agreed she’d lie with him.’
‘That didn’t seem very hard to win his prize then.’
‘Well, however hard it might’ve been, the affair didn’t last long.’
‘And why’s that?’ said the king.
‘Her husband soon suspected something going on and indeed found it out.’
‘Well, how’d he find out, fool?’ said the king.
‘There was a wizard, who knew a spell that would transform an adulterous wife into a wild hog if it was cast while she was in his presence. So this duke, the duchess’ husband, demanded the wizard cast this spell in the presence of the duchess, and, so done, she turned into a wild hog; it’s said she was served for the supper table that very night. The butcher’s son was most unhappy when he found out.’
‘What did he do then fool?’
‘Why he stole his father’s meat cleaver and chopped the duke into a thousand pieces while he slept.’
‘A stupid story, now shake your wand and see if that will amuse me,’ said the king.
‘I cannot your grace.’
‘Why not fool, amuse me.’
‘I fear some dire effect it might have, for now I recognize this is the wand of the wizard from my story and will cast a metamorphosis on a faithless wife should it be shaken in her presence, and I fear doing so with the queen here.’
‘You imply that my queen has been faithless?! I should have you executed fool!’ said the king.
‘My grace, I only suggest it is best to err on the side of caution, for the metamorphosis is irreversible and far too severe a punishment for one who merely succumbs to human weakness.’
‘Just shake the blasted thing! I want to be entertained,’ said the king.
‘Very well my sire.’
‘Don’t bother, fool, I’ve seen enough, you bore me,’ said the queen.
‘Very well your majesty, I will take my leave,’ said the jester.
‘No, no, shake it, I’m bored, I want some amusement for heaven’s sake,’ said the king.
‘Ugh, I can’t stand to put up with this awful show, I shall take my leave,’ said the queen.
‘No, you shall stay with me, my queen, what are you actually worried about something? You are my true to me, are you not?’ said the king, now in the position of not only entertaining the jester’s tale for true but suspecting his queen of an affair.
‘Of course I’m true!’ said the queen
‘Then stay and let the blasted wand be shaken,’ said the king.
‘Oh, I’ll not be subject to this tripe,’ said the queen, getting up to leave.
‘Shake it!’ cried the king at the jester, who then shook the wand, and, before the queen could get much further than her seat, she was transformed into a bloated pig. The jester, unsure what to do or say, panicked and ran out the room. The king, taken aback, confused, and, infuriated then thought the only reason the jester suspected the queen would be transformed was because he’d been seeing her, so demanded that the jester be captured and executed. And so, the jester’s head was promptly to be seen on a pike outside the castle grounds.
As for the transformed queen, the king couldn’t bring himself to serve her at the dinner table, instead released her to the wild where she lived quite happily as a hog in some muddy woodland.
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